Agenda item

Questions to the Cabinet Members

To provide an opportunity to pose questions to Cabinet Members in line with Standing Orders.



No more than 10 minutes will be allocated at the Council meeting for questions to each Cabinet Member.


Members must submit their proposed questions in writing in advance in accordance with Standing Orders.  If members are unable to ask their question orally within the allocated time, remaining questions will be answered in writing.  The question and response will be appended to the minutes.


The question must be addressed through the Mayor or the person presiding at the meeting and not directly to the person being questioned.


Questions will be posed to Cabinet Members in the following order:


        i.           Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education and Early Years

      ii.           Cabinet Member for Community and Wellbeing

     iii.           Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Regulation and Housing

    iv.           Cabinet Member for Social Services

      v.           Cabinet Member for Organisational Transformation

    vi.           Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Bio-Diversity

   vii.           Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Assets


There is 1 written questions to the Cabinet Members:


Question 1 – Cabinet Member for Education and Early Years


Councillor Routley


At the recent Cabinet meeting you stated it has been reported to you that school children are shaking with hunger and are starving in certain schools.


What have you done Cabinet Member to raise this issue and alleviate the suffering?


Response from Councillor Davies


Thank you for your question, which I am pleased to answer.


You have quoted me without providing the context on why I was speaking about child hunger and poverty. I was responding to the update published by Newport City Council on our response to external pressures impacting on Council Services. The paper explicitly describes the impact of the cost of living crisis on our communities.


Indeed over the last 18 months communities across Newport are facing unprecedented financial pressures resulting from inflationary increases in the cost of energy, food, mortgages and rent along with other household costs.


Currently the financial stability of the UK remains in a precipitous position despite the autumn statement published last Thursday, which for Wales will leave a budget shortfall. The extra £1.2 billion will not offset or address increased costs due to soaring inflation and is actually £300 million less than was set last year. Furthermore, OBR analysis following this budget makes it clear that real disposable income will fall to its lowest level since ONS records began in 1956. Globally we are falling behind our economic partners and who is overseeing this mess? The Tories -twelve years of mismanagement and incompetence. As a Labour administration in Newport we are working hard to support our residents and help them to survive during this cost of living crisis. Something I firmly believe would not have been necessary if a Labour Government was in power.


Returning to my comments in the Cabinet meeting last week the actions we have undertaken so far include the setting up of a task and finish group to help support households to access additional financial help from Welsh Government, along with drop in sessions in Pill and the Riverfront where NCC and partners provided advice, support and guidance. The intention is to coordinate support so that our most disadvantaged and vulnerable residents get the support and help they need. A summit was recently held so that plans can be coordinated to ensure there is local access to food banks and warm rooms in preparation for this winter.


In my reply to the Leader at Cabinet I listed what actions are being undertaken within our schools to ensure children are fed and support is also given to families. I made clear that 10 years ago when I was first elected I did not envisage visiting schools and being introduced to family liaison officers who have been employed using grant funding to support parents with financial advice, housing advice and links to healthcare professionals as well as providing counselling where there is a breakdown in parental relationships.


Along with this, schools are running food banks, as well as uniform libraries where clothing can be swopped and shared. This includes coats, shoes and PE Kits and sometimes clothes for outside school. I have seen washing machines so that children can wear clean clothes as parents struggle with the cost of electricity.


What I said is children cannot learn if they are hungry. What I also said was this is not about neglect or a lack of love, this is about parents struggling to find money to put food on the table. This is not necessarily about benefits. Parents are experiencing in work poverty. Therefore our primary schools run breakfast clubs, and many are now opening earlier to ensure parents who work can leave their children to be fed before they start their school day.


Additionally we have seen the universal roll out of free school meals currently within our foundation schools and next year this will be extended to key stage 2 and then to our secondaries. A Welsh Government initiative that I am proud to see being delivered in Newport. Our officers have worked intensively to ensure that kitchens and dining areas in our schools can accommodate the additional numbers of children benefiting from this provision.


We are fortunate in Wales as our children on Free School Meals continue to be provided with vouchers during the school holidays and this puts at least £250 pounds worth of supermarket vouchers into family homes in Newport.


Finally, as part of our focus on delivering and supporting those in poverty I have asked for an audit to be undertaken within our schools on how grant funding is being spent to address the worst aspects of poverty that impact on learning, I have already had an interim report back and there are some outstanding projects and initiatives being undertaken with our schools but my intention is to promote the sharing of best practice and new ideas.


At this point I would like to take the opportunity to thank our teachers and the support staff. They truly are going above and beyond. They are witnessing on a daily basis the cruel impact that this unnecessary cost of living crisis is having on our Newport families. They are incredible and it’s their work that has an impact on our children’s lives as they ensure children are fed before they start the school day.



During Councillor Davies’ statement there was no mention of safeguarding, we all had a duty of care and should work together.



Councillor Davies, quoted transcript from comments.  It was not about neglect or lack of love but due lack of resources for children.



There were no further questions or items and, therefore, the Presiding Member declared the meeting closed.